Troy Caldwell, M.D. is psychiatrist and spiritual director. In his clinical role, he began seeing God work directly in the souls of his patients. This, combined with his interest in Spiritual Theology he studied at the Anglican School of Theology) propelled him into the role of Spiritual Director. He wrote Adventures in Soulmaking to tell stories of those he’s walked alongside, to explore ‘the patterns of Christian spiritual passage,’ to encourage people to be more conscious of their spiritual journey and as an aide to helping professionals (pastors and spiritual directors). Caldwell combines the insights of the Christian mystical tradition with the depth psychology of Carl Jung.
Adventures in Soul Making is presented in two parts. Part one provides a ‘coherent model of the soul.’ Caldwell begins with the story of a peddler who gives all his wares away and isat the point of starvation, when a dream leads him to discover a treasure buried by his cabin. While listening to dreams may sound foolish to some (like one character in the peddler story), Caldwell sees this as a place for revelation of our deepest self and a place for Divine encounter. Caldwell shares his own story and stories from directees to illustrates dreams’ importance and the insights from Jung. Next he explores the ‘spiral path’ of Christian Spirituality (the Purgative, the Illuminative and the Unitive). Unitive is the goal but much of the focus of this book is on the Illuminative. Chapters four and five speak of the soul and levels of consciousness. Chapter six describes Nous Theology. Caldwell calls the Nous, our deepest self and he sets it in opposition to sarx (our base desires which cause us to sin (72-76). The next chapters (seven through twelve) dig into the importance of symbol and archetype (concepts gleaned from Jung but illustrated through Bible passages). Chapter thirteen explores how symbols and archetypes reveal the meaning of our dreams.
Part two (chapters fourteen to twenty) explores deeper important spiritual practices (i.e. the examen,contemplative prayer, scriptural meditation, lectio divina, journaling, inner healing prayer, etc) and tools for discernment. This is the more practical, less theory side of the book.
This is an interesting book and Caldwell has many fine things to say. I have been blessed by spiritual direction and appreciate the insights of psychology; nevertheless Caldwell’s use of Jung and archetypal symbols seems a bit esoteric to me. At one point, Caldwell quotes a Gnostic gospel to illustrate his nous theology. Later he directs his readers to listen to a Twila Paris song. Somewhat eclectic sourcing here.
This is a book about the spiritual life. It is about going deep into yourself, paying attention to your inner dynamics and the power of Christ to bring personal breakthroughs. I find myself agreeing with the practices that Caldwell suggests without feeling like I can endorse his theology wholesale. There is a strong body/soul dualism running through his theology and method. Talk of higher consciousness and archetypes are sometimes illuminating, but they also lend to a sort of neo-gnosticism. I find troubling. The emphasis throughout this book is on our own subjective spiritual experience. I am not dismissing Caldwell as a Gnostic or denying the reality of spiritual experience. I am noting my unease with certain directions.
One of my standing critiques of self-published works is that reading them, you feel the editor’s absence. That is true here too, though in Caldwell’s case I think he has a narrative flow, and no grating grammar problems. I think this book would be helped if his prose was more concise and the book was shorter and the organization was tightened up a little bit.
These criticisms aside, I like this book enough to keep it on my shelf and there are sections I will likely refer back to. Certainly God uses symbols and the symbolic world to communicate to us. I appreciate Caldwell’s call for us to pay attention to where we are and where God is leading. I give this 3 and a half stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.